Joe Louis Walker sings blues his own way

San Francisco’s Joe Louis Walker says it’s not a popular genre because people don’t hear it very much; he’s happy to help

Staff writerApril 18, 2014 

Blues singer Joe Louis Walker, recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, will play Friday at Jazzbones in Tacoma.


In an era of music dominated by pop princesses and rappers, blues enthusiasts sometimes worry about the future of the genre.

But one man who doesn’t seem too concerned is singer/guitarist Joe Louis Walker. The San Francisco native, who is set to perform at Jazzbones on Friday night, doesn’t think the genre is on the outs, but rather it just isn’t given its due by the public at large.

“I don’t think the wider public is moving away from the blues,” he said. “I just don’t think that they get a chance to hear it. I think if you hear one thing all the time — if you hear Lady Gaga all the time — you tend to think that’s the only thing out there.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a finer standard-bearer for the blues than Walker. Growing up in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, he was exposed to the blues at an early age by his father.

Inspired by what he heard, he first picked up the guitar at 12 and began playing in a group with his cousins.

His big break came after meeting celebrated blues virtuoso Mike Bloomfield. “He took me under his wing, treated me like his little brother,” Walker recalls. “He also introduced me to a lot of people and gave me a taste of reality by sending me back to Chicago in the ’60s and showing me how hard it all really was.”

But now, Walker is a freshly minted member of the Blues Hall of Fame. Walker’s latest record, “Hornet’s Nest,” is an energetic, well-crafted collection of gospel-flavored ballads and straight-ahead rockers. The album, which came out in February, is unapologetic in its unique take on the staid blues form, which Walker cops to.

“I’ve never been a I, IV, V blues guy, though I respect that immensely,” he said. “I’ve never been anything but who I am, an amalgamation of those influences I grew up with.”

While the blues might not be lighting up the charts the way it once did, Walker is among the artists keeping things fresh, tweaking form and perception.

“I may not be the greatest singer or the greatest guitar player or the greatest songwriter, but when you put it all together, it’s formidable,” he said. “I have my own way of doing what I do. I’ve certainly taken my lumps, but I’ve lived to talk about it.”

Joe Louis Walker

Where: Jazzbones, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Ticket: $15

More information: 253-396-9169

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